Asked in Copyright and Patents (Intellectual Property)

Q: Do I require permission from companies to use purchased parts to build a complete new item to sell?

Hi, I'm considering starting my own "small guitar company" with the goal of producing around 24-36 guitars/basses per year. The guitar bodies will be of my own designs and built by me. However, I’ll need some parts such as neck, tuners, bridge, pickups, electronics and a few other parts.

If I purchase parts from a company such as Allparts, will I need any sort of agreement to use them on my builds? For example: If they sell parts such as a "Bigsby tremolo" by Gretsch, and allows me to buy large quantities, is that ok?

I'm asking because most parts have "licensed" printed on them, and since I'll be paying for the parts, I assume that means I can use them on my guitars. The companies won't be losing money - in fact they’ll be making money because of the parts required; plus most sellers offer bulk buying, which seems like they’re aware.

Thanks: Clinton

2 Lawyer Answers
Marcos Garciaacosta
Marcos Garciaacosta
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Mesa, AZ

A: Very likely

If the parts are designed specifically for them they may have restrictions on who can buy them.

The supplier should be able to answer those questions and if they can't sell you they should tell you.

Timothy John Billick
Timothy John Billick
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Seattle, WA

A: My colleague above failed to account for the "first sale doctrine," which, in most circumstances, permits you to buy parts off-the-shelf and use them in new products. If you buy the products from a licensed retailer/wholesaler, you're most likely in the clear.

As a musician and instrument (pedals mainly) builder myself, I know this is commonly-accepted practice.

But to be totally sure, you should consult with an IP attorney to fully assess your risks.

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